“A Sisterhood of Faithful Women:” the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh Collection

Among the “hidden collections” that have been processed thus far through the NHPRC grant awarded to the Heinz History Center Library and Archives is one donated by the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh.  To those not acquainted with Zonta International (as I was not before processing this collection), here’s a little overview of the history and vision of this organization:

Founded in 1919, Zonta International was formed to advocate for women’s place in business and other professional fields. Central to its mission was raising the status of women in the workplace and furthering the interests of female professionals across the globe.  Following the founding of this international organization, a local Pittsburgh chapter of Zonta International was established on April 19, 1934.

The Zonta Club of Pittsburgh was comprised of professional women working in Pittsburgh who had risen to high positions within their respective fields, including education, medicine, oil manufacturing, law, advertising, and banking.  From its founding, this local Zonta chapter served the female worker population of Pittsburgh by organizing various education events.  Beyond this, the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh also became actively involved in current issues surrounding women’s rights in the workforce.  In one instance of this involvement, the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh became engaged in legally contesting a 1937 Pennsylvania state bill that would limit a woman’s work week to 40 hours.

Comprised of six scrapbooks, the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh collection documents in an engaging way the actions of this organization from 1934 to 1980.  Countless newspaper clippings, pamphlets, programs, photographs and letters collectively chronicle the various ways in which the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh advocated for and educated female workers.

Even more striking, however, are the remaining materials included in the pages of these scrapbooks that relate to individual female professionals of Pittsburgh.  Magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and other publications interspersed in these scrapbooks tell the story of prominent female professionals in Pittsburgh.  Some women featured in this way include Dr. Zoe Johnston, Pittsburgh general chairman of the Radiological Society of North America; Sandra McLaughlin, the first female vice president of Mellon Bank; and Virginia Lewis, the first director of the Frick Arts Museum.  In this way, the materials in these scrapbooks serve as a patchwork history of female professionals and their rise in  Pittsburgh’s professional circles.

The image above (taken from the earliest club scrapbook) demonstrates the manner in which the Zonta Club of Pittsburgh filled their scrapbooks. As can be gleaned from the newspaper headlines, this page was dedicated to recording the rise of Zonta member, Dr. Zoe Johnston, in the field of Radiology.

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